Everyone line up: Canada’s tradition of orderly queuing ‘foreign and strange’ to many newcomers

Nice piece on Canadian queuing etiquette:

Nobody is quite sure why Canadians hold lineups so dear, although Westerners are prone to get quite jingoistic when justifying the practice.

In the 1959 book The Silent Language, anthropologist Edward T. Hall claimed that queuing reflected the “basic equalitarianism” of Western culture.

“To us it is regarded as a democratic virtue for people to be served without reference to the rank they hold in their occupational group,” he wrote.

At the Canadian School of Protocol and Etiquette, Ms. Mencel teaches her students that lining up is a holdover from class-conscious Britain. “People try to better themselves in society by learning all the rules of etiquette that the Upper Class knew, and line etiquette is part of that,” she said.

Marina Nemat is the Ontario-based author of Prisoner of Tehran, her memoir about being imprisoned and tortured as a teenager by Iranian Revolutionary Guards.

To explain her adopted country’s penchant for lining up all the time, she had a simply answer: Canadians — just like their line-upping counterparts in Germany, the United States and Britain — are rich.

“I see the lineups that we have in Canada as a luxury; an absolute luxury,” she told the National Post by phone.

Most Canadians, she noted, have never endured an eight-hour lineup for water, food or scarce medical supplies, situations where “if you start being polite, or if you stay at the end of the line, your child can die.”

“We can afford to be polite, we can afford to respect one another,” she said. “If we Canadians, heaven forbid, one day have to line up with our lives at stake, what then?”

Everyone line up: Canada’s tradition of orderly queuing ‘foreign and strange’ to many newcomers

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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